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The European Commission’s draft RoHS and WEEE Directives will place increasing challenges on manufacturers and importers.

‘Industry will welcome the Commission’s decision to drop its plans to ban TBBP-A (a flame retardant used in over 90 per cent of all circuit boards),’ said Environ’s head of WEEE, RoHS and Ecodesign Dr Aidan Turnbull.

‘However, the RoHS compliance burden will increase considerably, by including RoHS within the CE marking regime and placing new obligations on importers and distributors.

‘There are also concerns that the new policy on exemptions will limit innovation in some sectors.’ The Commission justifies its position that exemptions will only be valid for 4 years and that industry will need to apply for any renewals by stating that ‘the use of those substances in such applications should become avoidable.’ However, in many industry sectors the physical or chemical properties of lead, cadmium, mercury or other hazardous substances provide significant technical advantages that far outweigh the environmental impacts.

Designs require considerable investment and time to bring them to market.

Requiring all RoHS exemptions to be renewed every four years will prevent these long- term investments.

Under the CE marking regime, manufacturers will be required to carry out internal production control procedures for RoHS compliance in line with Module A, Annex II of 768/2008/EC and provide an EC declaration of conformity.

Importers will be required to check that non-EU manufacturers have completed these conformity assessment procedures and that the CE-marked product is accompanied by the required documents.

Importers are also required to mark the product with their brand and contact address, or where that is not possible, to include these details on the packaging or product documentation.

Distributors are required to check that importers have complied with these marking requirements, and are prohibited from selling products which they have reason to believe are not RoHS-compliant, including carrying out product recalls if necessary.

The draft WEEE Directive introduces several measures which will simplify producer registration and reporting requirements for manufacturers who sell products in multiple member states.

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